Name: Victor Payano
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: October 17, 1992
Acquired: 2010 International Free Agent
As the 2009 July 2 international signing period approached, left-hander Victor Payano was one of the most sought-after arms on the market. The Dominican Republic native had a projectable 6-foot-5 frame with a quick arm, a fastball that touched the upper-80s at 16-years-old, and a feel for command.
According to ESPN's Jorge Arangure, the Boston Red Sox agreed to terms with Payano for a reported $900,000 signing bonus on the morning of July 2––the first day that amateur players are eligible to sign. But the deal never became official after Payano failed to pass a physical with the club, and he remained a free agent.
The Texas Rangers monitored Payano's progress through the remainder of the year before signing him in February 2010. After initially agreeing to a $900,000 bonus from Boston, he signed with the Rangers for only $75,000.
Two years later, the Rangers appear to have gotten a bargain.
The issue that voided Payano's contract was never made public by Boston or Texas. But two years into the hurler's young professional career, he's kept a clean bill of health and hasn't missed any time due to injuries.
Then-Dominican Summer League Rangers manager Kenny Holmberg, who coached Payano during the 2010 season, said there were no injury red flags during the prospect's debut campaign.
"The conditioning, the weight lifting, the bullpens, the game action, PFPs and fundamentals––everything has been clean," Holmberg said. "He has got a smile on his face, he enjoys the game, he enjoys the competition, and he hasn't been in the trainer's room for anything. Knock on wood."
Payano entered the Rangers' organization showing an intriguing fastball with advanced command and raw secondary stuff. While he's improved in two years, that's largely his status at present.
The southpaw's good fastball and command was on display with the DSL Rangers in 2010, when he posted a 3.40 earned-run average. He logged 50.1 innings and yielded 44 hits while walking 24 and striking out 52.
"He gets out there and competes," said Holmberg during the summer of 2010. "He's another 6-foot-5 lefty. We have got some big boys here. He commands it, and he's not afraid to attack the zone.
"He is one of those lefties that throws strikes. Once he gets command of spinning it and using that changeup, he is going to be a tough guy to battle with."
Payano made his state-side debut during fall instructional league following the '10 campaign. He attended spring training in the U.S. last season and began the year at extended spring training before shipping out to short-season Spokane.
Last season, his fastball velocity began to develop and he showed improved mechanics. After pitching well at the complex, Payano made 15 appearances (nine starts) with Spokane and had a 5.44 ERA. In 48 innings, he allowed 53 hits, walked 27, and fanned 43.
Payano's first experience out of the complex leagues was up and down. Like fellow projectable prospect David Perez, he appeared to put too much pressure on himself at times and began struggling with the strike zone. But the 19-year-old showed flashes of dominance, and he finished the season on a strong note.
After moving to the bullpen in early August, Payano began to find a groove. He yielded only three earned runs in his final 16.1 innings (1.65 ERA), allowing nine hits, walking six, and striking out 16.
Payano built upon his late-summer success in Spokane with a strong showing at fall instructional league. In fact, some members of the Rangers' player development staff noted him as perhaps the club's best pitcher during the month-long slate of workouts and games.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 22, 2011)
Tweeting Rangers Instructs (October 2, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: Payano creates deception with his tall frame and long levers. He gets good extension in his delivery and can pitch downhill at times, making his fastball jump on hitters a bit. He shows good potential velocity with a feel for solid-average to plus future command, though he was inconsistent last summer. Payano began the year by working between 87-91 mph in spring training, but his velocity progressed during the course of the season. He touched 94 mph with some consistency in Spokane and sat around 89-93 during instructs. Payano should add a tick more velocity as his still-thin 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame continues maturing. At his peak, his mixture of velocity, deception and command should give him a plus fastball.
Other Pitches: The left-hander's secondary stuff isn't as developed as his fastball. While Payano's big-breaking curveball has good shape, he sometimes slows his body down when throwing it, tipping the pitch and causing it to come out slower and loopy. He made some progress in throwing it with better hand speed last season. When he does that, it's a sharper offering that shows plus potential. His curveball is a 71-73 mph breaker at present––reaching the mid-70s at times––that should be a harder and tighter pitch after refinement. Payano has similar body and hand speed issues on his changeup––clearly his third pitch at this stage of development. The change has some fade on occasion but often comes out firm and lacking movement between 84-86 mph.
Projection: Standing at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, Payano should add plenty of bulk to his tall, wiry frame in the coming years. With an ideal body, solid velocity from a repeatable delivery and the projection for relatively deep arsenal, Payano has all of the tools necessary to stick in a starting role as he develops. He'll need to continue refining his secondary stuff and mechanics. The Dominican Republic native became overly reliant on his fastball at times in Spokane last season––something he hadn't done in the lower-pressure environment of the complex leagues. Ideally, Payano is the type of prospect who steadily improves his velocity and secondary stuff as he moves up, and that's exactly what he has done thus far.
2012 Outlook: Despite his inconsistent summer in Spokane last season, the 19-year-old Payano is likely to open the 2012 campaign at Single-A Hickory. He projects as a starting pitcher and should work in that role for the Crawdads. The Rangers may attempt to limit his innings by having him pitch out of the bullpen or in a tandem role for part of the season. Still a youngster, he should spend the entire season in the South Atlantic League even if he excels.
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